If you were looking to have your faith restored that the next generation will make a difference in the world, you didn’t have to look further than the teams of high school students at an Engineering Expo that I recently had the honor of judging.
Little’s Engineering Studios recently became a Silver Sponsor of the Charlotte Engineering Early College (CEEC) which is a public school of choice for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, and a joint project between CMS and UNC Charlotte. CEEC focuses on energy and sustainability in the engineering disciplines. They accept only 100 9th grade students each year through a lottery application process. (This school year, 384 students applied, so only about 1 in every 4 made it in.) They have added a grade a year, so next year they will open their 11th grade.
Students take 9th, 10th and 11th grade classes at the high school facility on UNCC’s campus, and then spend 2 more years taking high school and college courses on UNCC’s campus, tuition free, that earns them up to 60 hours of transferrable college credit, giving them a fantastic head start on earning their engineering degree!
I was specifically drawn to CEEC by their demographics, and one item in particular: like me, over 50% of CEEC students are 1st generation college students. And because I can relate well to those students and share my experiences, I joined the Advisory Board. Another key demographic is that 43% of the students at CEEC are female, which is twice the number of females pursuing engineering degrees in college.
The first opportunity for me to get more involved was as a judge at CEEC’s 1st Annual Engineering Expo, held last week in Uptown Charlotte. The 9th grade teams had to create solutions to prevent nuclear terror. The 10th graders, who I judged, had to create a renewable energy city. The created an urban land plan, established an energy policy, designed efficient homes, and then created a promotional video and a website for their City. The teams had 5 minutes to present to us, and then a few more minutes to answer our questions.
It was clear the students were passionate about their project. They did considerable research, since some of the products they proposed to use were new to me. They were also well spoken and confident when presenting to a group of adults, which speaks to their preparation. Overall, I was very impressed with these teenagers, who have bright futures ahead of them. Here are the project websites for the top 3 teams: